On Perfectionism

An important question every creator encounters quite often is the following. When to ship the creation, be it a novel, a painting, a product, a software, a book or even a blog post?

I have read a large number of articles on this topic which advocate shipping instead of seeking perfectionism. They advocate lessons along the lines of following quotes.

  • Done is better than perfect.
  • Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Even Michael Hyatt has mentioned how his perfectionism habit has made him suffer and now he prefers shipping over making the product better.

In the other camp, we have people like Steve Jobs about whom it is said that he kept saying no to each iPhone iteration until he got the one he really wanted. Would iPhone have taken off as it did otherwise? We are not sure. I can also mention one of my favourite quotes here by Alain de Botton: “Of many books, one feels, it could have been truly good, if the author’s appetite for suffering had been greater.” I can certainly relate to that.

What do I think?

In my opinion, the truth — as with most other realities of life — again lies somewhere on a line joining the two extreme positions. Creating different products and running a successful business implies that I can relate this dilemma to my personal experience. What I do in this regard is the following. For a certain product, I strive to be a perfectionist in areas of high significance which are going to have a big impact later on. Also, I try to ignore perfectionism the ones with little consequences.

For example, I highly recommend you — whatever you are building — making it beautiful. Even if it is serious stuff like philosophy, an accounting software or technical figures, make them beautiful. There is always room for making things beautiful. Beauty by nature attracts every human being. In the great movie Knives Out, Harlan Thrombey asks Marta how she always beats him at Go. She replies, "you’re playing to win, I’m playing to make a pretty pattern." You can be a non-perfectionist in other areas like the cover of the book, the name of a side character and many other such decisions of little consequence.

In conclusion:

  • Ignore ones with little significance.
  • Perfect those which matter the most.

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